Cindy Fishburn is a fan of cemeteries. And she’s disappointed with the Town of Pelham’s cleanup effort in Hillside Cemetery in Ridgeville, in the aftermath of the July 20 storm which wreaked havoc in parts of the municipality, downing trees and power lines.
With deep roots in Niagara, Fishburn lives on the outskirts of Pelham, and has many relatives buried in local graveyards, including the Fonthill Cemetery at the end of Brock Street (formerly known as Brown’s Burial Grounds), the Pelham Hicksite Quaker Cemetery, at the corner of Welland Road and Effingham Street, and the Hillside Cemetery, on Canboro Road in Ridgeville (formerly known as the Dawdy Burying Ground).
The severe thunderstorm of July 20 produced wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour, which brought down countless trees and branches throughout Pelham. Director of Public Works Jason Marr told the Voice that road crews responded immediately to the emergency, and prioritized keeping roadways clear. Thereafter, the Town reassessed the situation, and devised a plan for a full cleanup process.
The Fonthill Cemetery has been completely restored to pristine condition as of last week, but Marr concedes that the Hillside Cemetery is still in a somewhat chaotic state, strewn with downed trees and branches.
“We do have a contractor scheduled to get into Hillside, but it’s a major undertaking,” said Marr. “I would say it’ll take the better part of two weeks. [The Town doesn’t] have the resources to be able to address the scope of that job. The smaller stuff, we tackle with our own crews, but we need to subcontract out the larger stuff.”
“It’s actually dangerous in there right now,” said Fishburn. “It’s still a mess. And I have a lot of ancestors and stones in there. Jeez, it’s been a month almost. What’s happening?”
Fishburn belongs to several local historical societies, as well as the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS). She took on a project for the Niagara branch of the OGS, photographing cemeteries in the region, including those in Pelham.
“I’ve photographed thousands of headstones, cleaned up around them before I took the pictures and posted them online. The stones provide a lot of information. I know it sounds a bit morbid, but it’s our history. It’s about all the people who settled in Niagara,” she said.